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Suffolk police officer who had relationship with ‘prolific offender’ dismissed for gross misconduct

14:43 28 September 2015

Clare Sherman-Potts at Suffolk Constabulary

Clare Sherman-Potts at Suffolk Constabulary's headquarters in Martlesham Heath where she was dissmissed from the force for gross misconduct

A Suffolk police officer has been dismissed for gross misconduct after having a sexual relationship with a “prolific offender” she was responsible for rehabilitating.

Clare Sherman-Potts appeared today before Suffolk Constabulary’s first ever public misconduct hearing at the force’s Martlesham Heath headquarters accused of having breached rules concerning honour and integrity.

The 25-year-old former officer – who was based in Ipswich and had previously been described as having a “brilliant future ahead of her” – admitted embarking on a sexual relationship with an offender who had committed 89 crimes in the past 10 years.

She had been given responsibility for the offender, named only as “Mr A”, as part of her role with the 180 degrees Suffolk Integrated Offender Management scheme, which she had been working with since November 2014.

Mr A joined the scheme in March following his release from prison and was assigned to Ms Sherman-Potts soon after. They met in a social setting the following month at a mutual friend’s party and started their relationship, later moving in together.

Suffolk Police Federation’s Sgt Mick Richardson, representing Ms Sherman-Potts, admitted the decision to move in was “misguided”.

“Having just broken up from a long term relationship, what Ms Sherman-Potts did was a moment of weakness; she was thinking with her heart not her head,” he added.

“But she has now come to her senses and knows it might ruin a promising career.”

Sgt Richardson told the hearing how colleagues had “congratulated her on her excellent work” and described her as having a “brilliant future ahead of her”.

Despite being aware that all contact with offenders must be disclosed, having done so previously, she did not report her relationship until June.

After doing so, she was suspended from duty and told to leave the address. Sgt Richardson said Ms Sherman-Potts had already broken-off the relationship and changed her mobile phone number by this time. He said Ms Sherman had “now recorded another matter of domestic abuse at the hands of the individual”.

Sgt Richardson claimed Ms Sherman-Potts had been “totally open and honest” about the relationship during the investigation and stressed that “at no time” was the force’s work compromised. He questioned the validity of some “hearsay” comments taken from fellow officers, whom he claimed were not aware it would be used as evidence.

Temporary Chief Constable Gareth Wilson, who chaired the hearing, found the evidence against Ms Sherman-Potts constituted gross misconduct.

“Mr A was a prolific offender and has committed a significant number of offences over the past 10 years,” he said.

“She will have known about his offending history prior to going to a social acquaintance’s party where she met Mr A in a social setting and started a relationship.”

Dismissing Ms Sherman-Potts, Mr Wilson said it was one of the “trickiest decisions” he had faced at a disciplinary hearing because of her “glowing record” and the positive accounts he had heard from her colleagues.

“However I have to take in to account not only the lessons she has learned from the wholly inappropriate relationship but also the effect it has had on the confidence in the policing service that we provide,” he added.

He said Ms Sherman-Potts’ involvement in the 180 scheme and her role to “stop the impact of [Mr A’s] criminality on the people of Suffolk” was an aggravating factor in his decision.

Ms Sherman-Potts said: “I would like to apologise to the constabulary.”

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